Holiday gift conundrum? Here are 15 great gift ideas for older adults.

At a recent birthday party for a woman turning 80, the gifts were piled high and her anticipation was great. But after opening the first six, she got a little cranky. “Oh no, not another nightgown! I don’t spend my days in bed!”  It produced a good laugh, but it also highlighted the fact that people often don’t know what to give the older adults. And now that we’re just weeks away from the holidays, we thought we’d ask our experts at the Witherell for some advice.

“Even when a grandparent or parent has transitioned to a skilled nursing facility, they can still share in the magic of the holidays,” notes Justine Vaccaro, LMSW, Director of Social Work at The Nathaniel Witherell. “My advice is to try to give gifts that are practical, functional, and fun.”

Here are our 15 gift ideas:

  1. Puzzles and games that engage the mind make great gifts for older adults,” she advises.     “They are especially useful in helping stave off dementia.”             
  2. If your mom or dad likes to relax with a good book, introduce an e-reader. It is easy to use and light enough to carry around. Tip: preload the devices so your parents can have dozens of titles right at their fingertips.
  3. Exercise the body as well as the mind; consider giving resistance bands which will encourage your favorite senior to engage in some strength and flexibility training, beyond what they’re scheduled for here at the Witherell. Check with us to determine the appropriate level of intensity of the exercise first, which will determine the thickness of the band.  
  4. Consider giving a light-therapy lamp, as a lamp that mimics natural outdoor light can help brighten your loved one’s day. Light therapy lamps can also be ideal for mobility-challenged older adults who find it hard to get outdoors.
  5. Help the loved one on your list to easily slip into his or her shoes without having to bend over; give an extended shoehorn. They work well with shoes, sneakers, boots, and slippers.
  6. Necklaces that incorporate a magnifying glass make great gifts for women who need a little extra help reading things with small print, like labels.
  7. Many older adults are very interested in documenting their family histories. A membership to an online service like can guide your gift recipient through their genealogy research and help them fill out the branches of their family tree. 
  8. Customized photo books that include detailed captions identifying people and places make great gifts. Companies such as Shutterfly and Walmart make it easy to upload photos and quickly create a book that your loved one will appreciate.
  9. A soft, cuddly throw blanket for the bed or sofa can be just what your parents need to stay comfortable while they relax, read, or watch TV. Many throw blankets are lightweight and easy to clean; there are designs to suit every taste.
  10. Special clocks for the visually impaired or those with Alzheimer’s Disease should top your list. Having a clock that displays in large format the date, day of the week, and time of day along with the hour can be a great way for seniors dealing with dementia or memory issues to orient themselves. Most so-called “Alzheimer’s clock” models have extra-large displays for easy viewing, and some also allow you to adjust the dimness level.
  11. Allow your loved one to experience the companionship of a pet by giving a robotic pet. Specifically designed to comfort older adults, these pseudo-furry friends contain sensors that allow them to respond to human touch.                         
  12. Make a special video message—keep it light and fun—and send it to Mary Tate at who will be sure to get it to your loved one. We will play it for her or him and even upload it to the Witherell’s YouTube Channel, if you’d like.
  13. Remember snail mail? Don’t forget to send cards, letters, and photos. Our residents love receiving them all. Mail them to: [name], The Nathaniel Witherell, 70 Parsonage Road, Greenwich, CT, 06830. Be sure to include any hand drawn artwork from children and grandchildren that we can hang on our walls and windows as well.
  14. If you live some distance away, arrange a Skype or Facetime visit with your loved one, especially on a holiday, if you’re not able to visit in person.
  15. Finally, for people who really don’t need any more stuff, a donation in their name to a charity you know they’d support can be the most meaningful gift of all. “You could also donate your time to the charity instead of your money and tell the gift recipient that your labors were done in their honor,” advises John Mastronardi, the Witherell’s Executive Director. “They will really appreciate it.”

                                                                           HAPPY HOLIDAYS!




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